Federal Court Judge Dismisses Most of San Jose’s Lawsuit against MLB
It’s been a tough 24 hours for the Oakland A’s as they were knocked out of the playoffs by the masterful pitching of Justin Verlander last night and federal judge Ronald Whyte this morning dismissed the City of San Jose’s anti-trust and unfair competition claims against MLB for failing to allow the A’s to move to San Jose.
The judge held his nose and upheld Supreme Court precedent which has ruled without a sound basis in law in 1922, 1953 and 1971 that MLB has an anti-trust exemption that does not apply to any other United States sports league, and that the exemption includes the right to bar teams from relocating without the approval of MLB. The judge also threw out the California law unfair competition claims.
The only claims that Judge Whyte allowed to go forward are San Jose’s tortious interference claims. These claims assert that MLB has damaged the City of San Jose by intentionally refusing to issue a decision on the A’s requested move to San Jose. Specifically, the A’s and the City of San Jose entered into an option agreement in November of 2011 which gave the A’s a two-year option to purchase land from the City of San Jose at a below-market cost of just under $7 million on which the A’s would build a new ballpark with private money. The City of San Jose alleges that MLB’s intentional refusal to issue a decision on the A’s requested relocation has denied San Jose the benefits of the option agreement, which include potential jobs and increased tax revenues if a ballpark is built.
Both sides are claiming victory. MLB’s lawyer described the court’s decision as knocking out “99%” of the City’s case, while the City’s attorney is trumpeting the fact that the tortious interference claims can go forward.
As I see it, it’s good for San Jose if any part of the lawsuit can go forward. The main purpose of the lawsuit isn’t to win money but rather to force MLB to do something about the A’s request to move to San Jose. Forcing MLB’s officials to testify about their failure to act on the A’s request for roughly the last four years is going to be embarrassing for MLB and may shake something lose.
I’ve been saying for some time that there has to be a way to work out a deal with the Giants to allow the A’s to move to San Jose. There has to be some amount of money that the A’s and MLB could give the Giants, if necessary with the threat that if the Giants don’t agree to take a reasonable amount MLB will simply approve the A’s move without compensation, that would make it worth the Giants’ while to let the A’s move to a new stadium that is actually farther from AT&T than the A’s current home, the decrepit O.Co Coliseum.
It’s long since been time for a decision on the A’s move to be made one way or the other.